New York Assembly pressured to reject bill targeting Israel boycotters

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and members of the Higher Education Committee at a press conference. (Photo: Clara A. Smith/Legislative Gazette)

New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and members of the Higher Education Committee at a press conference. (Photo: Clara A. Smith/Legislative Gazette)

Palestinian rights and civil liberties groups are mobilizing fast to halt an anti-boycott bill coming up for a vote in the New York State Assembly–the companion bill to Senate legislation passed last week.

The legislation prohibits state aid from going to academic groups that support boycotting Israel.  It targets the American Studies Association, as well as the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the Association for Asian American Studies, which have all voted to endorse the boycott of Israel. And its impact will fall on those who receive money from their institutions to travel to the academic conventions organized by those groups.

Despite it being decried as unconstitutional, the legislation is moving forward.  On Monday, the New York State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee is set to discuss the anti-boycott bill, according to activists.  Eight of the committee members–including the chair, Deborah Glick–are sponsoring the bill, meaning that only six more are needed for a majority.  If they vote to approve it, it will go to the full Assembly, where it has the support of at least 48 members.  The speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, authored the bill.  Activists are trying to defeat the bill.

“The reality is that this legislation is a direct assault on our First Amendment right to freely and openly speak our minds in opposition to the policies of any government, including the Israeli government,” an action alert I received from activists reads.

Groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (in New York) and Jewish Voice for Peace are encouraging people, especially New Yorkers, to contact members of the Higher Education Committee as well as other Assembly members to express opposition to the bill.

Meanwhile, the American Studies Association President, Curtis Marez, criticized the legislation as trying to “turn the clock backwards in terms of civil liberties, while once again displacing the question of human rights for Palestinians.” And the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild have sent a letter to New York Assembly members opposing the bill.

The letter, citing various court decisions that ruled that boycotts are protected speech, warns that the bill is unconstitutional and would spark a “legal challenge in order to protect the right of any individual or organization to engage in speech activities such as boycotts intended to effect social, political and economic change.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Activism, BDS, Israel/Palestine, US Politics

{ 14 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. seafoid says:

    New York assembly pressured. As expected.
    But the US was way behind on slavery as well back in the day, you know.

    The sacred US Constitution, the most perfect document in the history of humanity (copyright A. Scalia) was useless. And the arguments for slavery were so sophisticated .
    Lincoln needed an awful lot of triangulation to get people around to his way of thinking and it still needed a war….

    Slavery/YESHA was/is fundamentally an economic issue – white/Jewish people run an economy based on oppression producing cotton/security paraphernalia that would be impossible without a captive population of slaves/Palestinians .

    Maybe Max Blumenthal is the Harriet Beecher Stowe figure. .
    Finkelstein may be a metaphorical John Brown.

    • Giles says:

      Call these clowns and ask them why it is the job of the NY State Assembly to attack free speech in America to defend a racist colonial settler state.

    • Maybe Max Blumenthal is the Harriet Beecher Stowe figure. .
      Finkelstein may be a metaphorical John Brown.

      Got to be more apt images than those, but you are on the right track.

      Stowe was a novelist, Brown a criminal. Neither were black. Both Finkelstein and Blumenthal are Jews.

      Douglass’ autobiography (1845) has episodes similar to themes evoked in Goliath. The earliest account of a fugitive slave, published in 1825, Life of William Grimes, the Runaway Slave, might be compared to some of Norm’s early work. Note how long they were published before things came to a head, or before the Civil Rights Act, for that matter. Things move faster now, though.

      • seafoid says:

        I was thinking the same thing, Philip. It’s not the right fit but there was a book and an icon. It’s all about changing the memes.
        Obama is no Lincoln BTW.

  2. amigo says:

    Exposure is a good thing.Bring it on ziosville.

    Clog the courts with anti civil rights actions.

    BDS could never have expected so much help from the other side.

    Palestine will be on the front pages of MSM for years.

  3. pabelmont says:

    seafoid: I don’t see Israel as an economic enterprise au fond. Rather, I see it as an outsized effort — so far successful — for a fragment of an often mistreated religiously-defined group (Jews) to create and maintain a society based on a truly horrific ideology, namely, that a people so long generally powerless and mistreated can remake itself into a people which — with immunity and impunity — can make a daily practice of mistreating another people.

    In my view, Israel would not be what it is without the Palestinians to push around. It needs victims. What good is impunity and immunity without dirty work to do?

    Had Judah Magnes’s view prevailed, Israel would never have been created in war and terrorism, and an initially bi-national state, composed of Jews and Palestinian Arabs, would have grown in a democratic fashion into something like a small USA — and not into the racist, embattled, constantly-at-war misshapen atrocity that Israel has become (and which it was destined to become by the terrorism, war, expulsions and refusal-to-readmit refugees of 1948). The Jews of Palestine could have “made their bed” in various ways. The particular way they chose to make it predestined the horrors which followed, because they created not only tensions with neighbors which led to further wars and fed the Israeli fear of extermination, but also because the essentially criminality [willingness and eagerness to take what belonged to others by force and illegally] of the Israeli founding fathers wound itself inextricably into the Israeli soul.

    I think an Israel-Palestine combo, if at peace, would be economically much more productive than either alone and embattled. But Israel’s mindset today, generally speaking and getting worse day by day, cannot embrace such a possibility. The power of the settlers, and especially their power to mistreat Palestinians with immunity and impunity — never punished for their crimes by Israel — is an addictive drug and has nothing to do with being Jewish. South American junta’s have done the very same, and made no claim to be Jewish.

    • seafoid says:

      Ultimately it’s about funneling economic value generated to the Jews who live in the space.

      Israelis buy into the system via their housing loans and salaries which are sponsored by the fruits of exploitation and easy access to Euro markets
      AND because they have zero accountability to all the liabilities they have built up which are valued at zero (by them).

      BDS is about market value of the liabilities- cutting off the cashflows that bind Israeli Jews to this brutal system.

      I think it is like Northern Ireland- justice would require that the Untermenschen get access to the cash….

      Jews naturally love the status quo …

  4. Bumblebye says:

    link to guardian.com

    “The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, on Sunday brushed off a warning by the US secretary of state, John Kerry, that Israel faces a growing boycott threat if peace talks with the Palestinians fail, saying the campaign would not achieve its goal.”

    But Nutty’s having none of it – nor are other coalition leaders:

    “At the opening of his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said international pressure on Israel would backfire and only cause the Palestinians to harden their positions.

    “Attempts to impose a boycott on the State of Israel are immoral and unjust. Moreover, they will not achieve their goal,” he said.

    While Netanyahu refrained from taking aim at Kerry, some of his ministers were harsher. The intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz, of Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party, called Kerry’s comments “offensive, unfair and insufferable”.”

    And wow! There’s actually a comment section (currently not favorable to the zionist position).

  5. NickJOCW says:

    To equate criticism of the Israeli state, or a boycott of Israeli institutions, with anti-Semitism is as absurd as calling criticism of or sanctions against the Iranian government anti-Muslim or anti-Persian, and as illogical as classifying criticism of the Chinese occupation of Tibet as hateful against people of Chinese ethnicity. Common sense makes clear the distinction between anti-Jewish bias (based on the race, ethnicity or religious identity of Jewish people as individuals or as a group) and criticism of Israeli institutions. The law also recognizes the distinction.

    From the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild letter referenced in Alex last para above.

  6. irmep says:

    …and exactly how is that not a bill of attainder?

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  7. Israeli apartheid has learnt from the failures of South African Apartheid.

    If apologists for SA Apartheid had attacked the courageous academic, sporting, union and other civil groups who were the first to implement boycotts, then Nelson Mandela would have died a “terrorist” in Victor Verster Prison, and his people would still be resisting the segregated Bantustan-state solution forcibly imposed on them.